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DIGITAL FASHION: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

The world has gone sideways and fashion brands are doing their best to overcome these trying times. Doing their best to remain relevant, keep selling, and stay safe from the terrifying world of social media callouts. 

Fashion month, as we know it, was cancelled and with it, went the media coverage, spectacle of endless runway Instagram stories, influencer brand takeovers, after parties, photoshoots and glamorous trips to the four world fashion capitals. 

We’ve seen all sorts of innovative pandemic-proof ways of presenting collections. From the likes of 3D animations all the way down to fashion films, interactive boxes and live streamed interviews. Everything but fashion from home. Will that ever be a thing? Numbers have shown us that none of the attempts fashion brands have made to replace what we once knew to be normal, has actually paid off.The most likely reason for that is a pandemic isn’t the best time to think about luxury. But the idea of participating from home, in your pyjamas, in a Gucci show, is still pretty fascinating. 

The possibilities and limitations of “fashion from home” are multiple. Digital fashion has opened doors to democratising the luxury fashion experience and has helped to make fashion week a more sustainable event. As with everything, there’s also a down-side: the digital turn has, without a doubt, killed the core of the fashion experience. The world is no longer a giant runway, but a virtual platform, edited and fragmented.

The idea of “fashion from home” sounds unnatural, absurd even. We get dressed because we want to show the world something about ourselves, whether it is our true identity or one we one we adopt to feel more confident and able to navigate spaces in which we oftentimes wouldn’t be comfortable or feel all that safe. We dress to present ourselves to society, to confront prejudice, or blend into the crowds. We develop a personal style to be a part of the daily exchange of life visions, of aesthetic values, taste, culture, political ideas and expressions.

So, what happens when our day-to-day catwalks are emptied, when we all stop focusing on how we and others look and start worrying mainly about our health and safety? What happens when the freedom of showcasing our identity is taken away from us? What happens when the only way we can experience fashion is online? 

The resources brands have come up with to deal with this new reality have had varying effects on the fashion audience and caught our attention in different ways. 

3D animated shows, videos and short clips like those made by Alexander Wang, Sunnei, Helsinki Fashion Week and Hanifa, have had one particular effect: they don’t make us miss reality. The fact that they create bodies and atmospheres that are 100% digital transports us to a different place in our minds, one where we don’t necessarily desire what we’re seeing, but rather admire creations that may or may not be made for real life. It’s entirely digital, and because of that, it’s entirely compatible with our daily internet immersion. 

Fashion films, on the other hand, such as those made by Maison Margiela and Gucci, have a completely different effect on us who watch them lying in bed, or sitting in front of our desks at home in our sweats. They fill us with nostalgia and admiration, present us with beautiful dreams we all desperately need. The magic of the making, the overwhelming beauty of team design processes, of research, moodboards, references, fabric experimentation, the enchanting process of turning an idea into something tangible and beautiful. 

We get dressed because we want to show the world something about ourselves, whether it is our true identity or one we one we adopt to feel more confident and able to navigate spaces in which we oftentimes wouldn't be comfortable or feel all that safe.

Technology has become a tool for creating a new type of relationship with customers and also, has allowed those who may not be able to buy into the brand through product, to understand and assimilate where they can, to the lifestyle being sold. Not only it helped shorten distance between performance and the audience, but it has also made couture, the most exclusive side of fashion, more democratic by allowing us to immerse in it from the comfort and safety of our homes, just like the people who would’ve been invited to a traditional Haute Couture show, pre-corona.

Livestream shows, interviews and conversations have also contributed to bettering the experience of being at home. They have given us the chance to meet designers, creatives, journalists, editors and celebrities and hear what they have to say, both on the industry and fashion but also on the way in which we are currently living. 

Most influential figures within the fashion world have done livestreams to share their experiences and thoughts on how the current global situation has impacted their creative  processes and the way the fashion industry works. They’ve been talking to us, the wide audience of millions of fashion lovers throughout the world.

Despite these efforts, perhaps the core of fashion is actually put at risk when digitized. Real life experiences are still more powerful than digital ones, even though they’re less democratic and can be more exclusive and elitist. Brands like Jacquemus and Etro, that opted for in-person intimate runway shows, still saw a higher return in press than those who opted to go fully digital. Many have said that the key to success, in this context, is to be able to combine physical and digital experiences in a creative way. To find real innovation in times of radical change, as opposed to fully digitizing and thus disconnecting prospective brand admirers and clientele as well as some of the already established followers the brand has.

Whether the changes are for better or for worse, it is clear that in this desperate search for new ways of engaging fashion, it is vital to consider how important and valuable it is for the industry to actively involve a wider audience, and to make fashion accessible for those of us who before lockdown, could only ever have access to this side of fashion from home.